The legal profession is not alone in dealing imperfectly with the mental health of its members. As comedian and writer Ruby Wax (pictured) noted, speaking at Herbert Smith Freehills last week to mark mental health awareness month, depression carries a stigma that can lose someone a job.
In law it is seen as ‘not coping’ in a profession defined in many respects by its high-octane competitiveness.
The HSF event, for its own lawyers and clients, was held to promote the firm’s mental health network. The Gazette also found Ernst & Young’s UK general counsel, Lisa Cameron, keen to talk publicly about the big-four accountant’s work in this area. And access to some therapy is part of the support provided by a growing number of law firms.
The notion that colleagues should at one level respond to a mental health issue, such as depression, as they would a physical injury that requires accommodation and support, is a challenging one.
But the reasons to try are compelling. As Wax pointed out, early effective treatment – against a background of support – is exactly what reduces the likelihood that a problem will recur with increased severity. And as the charity LawCare confirms, demand from lawyers outstrips the care available by some distance.